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NPP Won’t OK 2003 Budget

PIP Denounces New Planning Board Appointments

"Churumba" Warns Calderon Could Lose In 2004

Pesquera: "Team Not The Problem; It’s The Leader"

NPP House Delegation Won’t Approve 2003 Budget

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

June 20th, 2002.  

New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera announced that the NPP House delegation will vote against the bill for the government's fiscal 2003 budget.

Pesquera said the current budget will end with a $508.1 million deficit, mostly due to a $338.1 million operational expenses overdraft for government agencies and an estimated $170 million deficit in revenue collection by the Treasury Department.

"After a careful analysis of the budget, the NPP delegation has presented a convincing report from which we determined that we won’t favor approval of the 2003 budget," Pesquera said.

The NPP president also stated that the Calderon administration had a chance to reduce the budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2001 from $268 million to less than $71 million, if she had used the remaining funds from the past administration to reduce that deficit instead of using them for the 2002 budget.

"This administration had the opportunity to balance the 2001 budget, and it didn’t do it. . .This administration didn’t seek ways to save money before digging into taxpayers' pockets," said Pesquera, who noted that if Gov. Sila Calderon had reduced government spending by 3.5%, she wouldn’t have had to burden taxpayers with an excise-tax increase on alcohol, tobacco, and sport utility vehicles.

He said the governor also used $40 million left for government employee salary increases, $71 million from a reserve remaining from the sale of the Puerto Rico Telephone Co., and $53 million from the state compulsory car insurance program for the 2002 budget instead of 2001.

Pesquera also reminded the press that the Calderon administration has already postponed for two years the third phase of an already legislated tax reduction and the elimination of the marriage tax penalty law that had been approved by the previous administration.

He added that he expects more tax increases or a new postponement of the aforementioned laws if the Calderon government continues its pattern of misusing public funds.

He also mentioned that there is a $141 million deficit in budgeted funds for the health reform and a $60 million deficit from the Treasury Department's inability to collect taxes on parcels from such package delivery companies as Federal Express and UPS.

On another note, Pesquera reacted to an audit report that, according to the governor, revealed several irregularities in the past administration.

He said the governor should use the people's money to meet the public's needs instead of spending more than $800,000 on private auditors to detect alleged irregularities in the Urban Train project that are worth less than what she had spent on the audit reports.

"If that’s all she can find, we should be presented with an Excellence Award. If she wants to keep on looking, she can do so, because she won’t find anything else," Pesquera said.

PIP Denounces New Planning Board Appointments

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

June 18th, 2002.  

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Vice President Maria de Lourdes Santiago denounced Tuesday that with the new appointments to the Planning Board, Gov. Sila Calderon has allied her administration with big construction interests instead of with the environment and underprivileged communities.

Santiago added that with the replacements of former Planning Board President Hermenegildo Ortiz and associate member Felix Aponte, Angel David Rodriguez and Nelson Irizarry, respectively, are engineers, instead of planners, and as such, the new members will enforce their duties in accordance to the needs of the construction companies and not the environmental laws.

"A bad determination in the planning aspect knows no return. If permits are granted in a speedy manner, we are obliged to live with buildings in zones where construction should have never occurred, with ecological damage and irrepressible social costs," Santiago said.

Santiago made her statements Tuesday along with the party’s environmental adviser Jorge Fernandez Porto and Municipal Affairs Secretary Juan Dalmau at the party headquarters in Hato Rey.

Fernandez Porto said for example, that with the new appointments, the Piñones coastal area is at great risk if the new members give "the green light" to the Costa Serena tourism development project.

Although the project is currently halted due to a Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the court stated that tougher criteria should be used before granting the permits for construction. That ruling, according to Fernandez Porto, leaves the decision in the hands of the government agencies in charge of granting the permits.

"The thoroughness of the criteria used will depend on who demands it, meaning it could be both speedy and superficial," Fernandez Porto said.

Dalmau denounced that the Irizarry appointment represents Calderon’s "latest give in" regarding the Vieques issue.

In the past, both Ortiz and Aponte were tough in demanding that the U.S. Navy comply with the island’s rules and regulations. Dalmau feared this would not happen again because the new associate member is in the military.

According to Dalmau, Irizarry worked as a military intelligence official until 1998 and currently is the commander of an Army unit.

"It is clear that with his personal beliefs, he will rule in favor of the Navy," Dalmau said.

"Churumba" Warns Calderon Could Lose 2004 Election

JUNE 17, 2002

PONCE (AP) — Ponce Mayor Rafael Cordero warned Gov. Sila Calderon on Monday that she must improve her performance or face the risk of losing the 2004 general election to the New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate.

"Calderon must create a public impact before Dec. 31 with projects, affirmative actions, and by making important decisions," said Cordero, who is a member of the Popular Democratic Party Government Board.

"I believe it would be too late if [she doesn’t do this] by Dec. 31," Cordero said in a radio interview.

The Ponce mayor said if Calderon doesn’t shape up, she will have a hard time running against the NPP if the pro statehood party doesn’t choose Carlos Pesquera as its gubernatorial candidate.

Although he didn’t mentioned Jorge Santini’s name, it was obvious he was referring to the San Juan mayor, who rumor has it would have overwhelming support should he choose to run for governor in 2004.

However, Cordero said he still believes Calderon win if she were to run today against Pesquera.

Opinion polls have ratified Cordero’s point of view, showing Santini defeating Calderon in the gubernatorial run.

Cordero is the second prominent PDP mayor to ask Calderon to get her act together.

On Friday, Trujillo Alto Mayor Pedro Padilla said the Calderon administration was not changing the cabinet but improving the government’s performance.

Padilla also said the Health Reform program is a disaster.

Cordero concluded that politics are constantly changing and that a governor’s image can go up or down just as easily.

Pesquera: "Team Not The Problem; It’s The Leader"

By Proviana Colon Diaz of WOW News

June 14th, 2002.  

"The problem is not the team; it is the leader," said New Progressive Party (NPP) President Carlos Pesquera in response to Gov. Sila Calderon’s cabinet changes Friday.

Less than two hours after the announcements were made, Pesquera said it was Calderon’s fault for not promoting a "good and consistent administration."

The NPP leader and possible contender to Calderon in the gubernatorial race in 2004 said with Friday’s nine resignations, the total of prominent posts left vacant under the governor’s administration comes to 46.

"We have lost a year and a half with Friday’s announcement. She tries to give the impression of a new administration; we all know they came months after she took office," Pesquera said.

He added that by moving people from one agency to another and having people performing more than one duty at a time, such as in the case of Milton Segarra, who will continue to be the island’s Tourism Co. director and will also fill the post of Economic Development deputy secretary, Calderon demonstrates weakness in her ability to recruit the right person for the right post.

"This is a discredit to her administration, when there have been people who had already announced their desire to quit, and yet months after they offered their resignation, no one was willing to take the post," Pesquera said referring to Planning Board President Hermenegildo Ortiz, who allegedly submitted his resignation in December.

Pesquera added that while Calderon criticized the previous administration’s construction policy, she is acting the same way now.

"They began with a policy of stopping public construction, and now they want to eliminate such a policy. . .Now not only do they risk the possibility of not acting properly, but they could also go from the extreme of not granting permits to handing permits without limits," Pesquera said.

The NPP leader also criticized the creation of a cabinet member position to handle public affairs, which will be occupied by until Friday Popular Democratic Party General Secretary Jorge Colberg.

"With the appointment of Colberg Toro with a $106,000 salary, she moves the headquarters of her party to La Fortaleza," Pesquera said.

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